(KFVS) - As winter heads its way into the Heartland and temperatures continue to drop, the Animal Medical Center of Mid-America is urging all pet owners to bring their pets inside and exercise caution when exposing them to cold temperatures.
The general rule to go by: If it's too cold for you, it's too cold for your pet.
Here are some tips to help keep your animals safe and warm during the winter months:
- Bring pets inside. Limit their time outdoors and be mindful of frostbite on ears, tails, and paws. If you run with your dog, pay attention to their paws; if they get too cold, leave your pup at home. Cats should be kept indoors, as outdoor cats are susceptible to freezing or starving to death in severely cold weather.
- Acclimate pets to cold weather. If your pets spend a lot of time outdoors, make sure to introduce them to the dropping temperatures gradually, rather than exposing them to extreme cold all at once.
- Provide adequate shelter. Outdoor dogs should have a well-insulated, draft-free appropriately-sized doghouse. Make sure the opening faces south and has a study, flexible covering to prevent icy winds from entering. The floor of the doghouse should be lined with straw, not hay, and do not use towels or blankets as these can become damp and freeze.
- Beware of antifreeze and rock salt. Antifreeze can collect on driveways and roadways, and although it smells and tastes sweet to your pet, it is lethally poisonous! If pets have ingested antifreeze, call your veterinarian immediately. De-icing products like rock salt can irritate a pet's footpads, so be sure to rinse and dry pets' paws after being outside. Some pet stores carry pet-safe ice melts similar to rock salt that won't harm your pets.
- Dry off wet pets. A wet pet is a cold pet. Towel or blow-dry pets if they get wet from rain or snow. Clean and dry their paws to prevent tiny cuts and cracked pads.
- Provide plenty of food and water. Since it takes more energy to properly regulate body temperature when it's cold, pets may require additional calories when spending time outdoors. Pets are just as likely to get dehydrated in the winter as in the summer, so provide plenty of fresh water. Snow is not a substitute for water, and refill outside bowls often to prevent freezing.
- Carefully keep pets warm inside. Keep an eye on space heaters and other supplemental heat sources as these can burn your pet. Keep portable heaters out of reach and make sure fireplaces have adequate screening. Never leave pets alone with an unattended fire.
- Groom regularly. Pets need a well-groomed coat to remain properly insulated. Short or coarse haired dogs may get extra cold, so consider getting them a sweater or coat. Long haired dogs should have their paw hair trimmed to ease in cleaning and snow removal.